Cape Town - Murdered three-year-old Lache Stols had no one to run to, Western Cape High Court Judge Nolwazi Boqwana said when handing down her sentence on Anthea Kleynhans.
Kleynhans, "the person she (Lache) called 'mommy'", was sentenced to 13 years for killing the toddler, and an additional seven years for abusing her. Two years of the abuse sentence would run concurrent with the murder sentence, putting Kleynhans, a 39-year-old mother of three girls, behind bars for 18 years.
Boqwana said Kleynhans had acted in a brutal manner when she beat Lache with a belt and her open hand, resulting in her death.
She said one could only imagine the pain the child was in as she had been abused over a period of four months with each beating becoming more gruesome.
Kleynhans was declared unsuitable to work with children and her name would be listed on the National Child Protection register.
In her sentencing, Boqwana said the court could not impose life imprisonment as argued for by the State because Kleynhans had compelling personal circumstances.
She said though a long term imprisonment was appropriate.
“The deceased had no one to run to, the person she called mommy that she lived with is the one that beat her to death. She was a child of three years, weighing 13 kilograms; smaller than the average child her age. She was still developing learning to talk and control her emotions,” said Boqwana.
Lache was living with her paternal grandmother and great grandmother when she was uprooted to live with her father and Kleynhans.
Kleynhans said she was forced to look after Lache, and didn't agree to it. She said frustrations over her unemployment and her abuse of alcohol contributed to her abusing Lache. She said she beat Lache because the toddler soiled herself.
Kleynhans said Lache soiled herself every second day and the beatings started in mid-November, getting more severe as the soiling progressed.
"The deceased could do nothing. She was a victim of a decision made by adults," Boqwana said.
"If the accused could have asked for help, Lache would have been rescued," she said.
Katy Stols, Lache’s grandmother, testified during sentencing that her mother, Maria Stols, who had looked after Lache, was struggling to accept the child’s death.
“She still walks around with Lache’s obituary in the bag,”she said.
Lache’s mother, Lara Boer, sobbed as she told the court: “Anthea is a mother herself, just like me; she knew what she was doing.”
Lache died on January 23, 2012. A post mortem report said she had died of blunt force trauma injuries.
Pathologists told the court this was the worst case of child abuse they had ever come across.